Monday, January 28, 2013

What Works For Me When Outlining

Today I am going to brave the waters and talk about my own personal writing! (Something I rarely ever do here on the blog).

So I have this story... okay, book... that I've been working on, on and off for probably about three years. (Wow. It sounds really intense when I say that. Trust me, it's not.) I'm now onto my third draft, although I haven't actually started it yet. I've read over the second draft probably four times (probably more), and had people comment on it and help me by pointing out things they were confused about or needed to fix (especially Elle - she is the awesomest!).

That's when I came to the point of having absolutely no idea how I should fix all of the problems. It just seemed way too overwhelming, with all of the stuff that needs to happen, throughout each part of the book and each scene. I wanted certain characters to be spotlighted more, and certain friendships to develop but how could I just change all of that? How in the world could I change everything? I couldn't even comprehend how it could work.

I don't know where I got the idea, but one night about a month ago I just started writing down what was  happening in each scene. I wasn't writing the story, I was just writing a very in-detail description of events. I guess you could say I was just telling. The other helpful thing about doing this is that this book of mine is in first person. I'm writing the outline in third person, so I can write out what other characters are thinking or feeling or the MC's subconscious motivations behind his actions and thoughts. This is SUPER helpful, because then I know exactly what's going on under the surface of what I'll actually end up writing. I'm telling first, showing later.

I've never really done much serious outlining before, because how-tos on it on other blogs just don't appeal to me. This is definitely working, because I can tell the ENTIRE story, working out plot details and character development along the way, but I don't have to do the work of writing an entire draft and having to go back and fix it.

How do you outline, if you do? Or how do you fix a mess of problems in your drafts?


  1. Oh boy, do I know how it feels to have so many issues you just don't know where to start!!! For the MS I just finished revising I went through it several times--the first time to make the character changes, the second to make plot changes, etc. And each time I made a note of how each change impacted other parts of the story, so I didn't get completely lost. I didn't know how well it was going to work, I just threw myself into it without thinking it through too much and freaking myself out...and it paid off, luckily :)

    Your outlining method sounds really good. I'm new to outlining too so maybe next time I'll give your way a go :)

  2. I dove into editing my first draft with immense relief. Once I knew what to change early on, I knew how to change the rest of the book. I have much more trouble drafting than editing -- that's where I really rely on my outlines. Sometimes I outline heavily, like you described. For shorter things like long stories or one-acts, I number little "scenes." For example:

    Scene 1
    Characters: Kit and Tommy
    Setting: Kit's dad's backyard. Later the woods.
    Kit and Tommy are playing, Kit hears a noise in the woods and goes to look. He doesn't come back. Tommy goes into the woods to look, gets scared, runs away.

    Sometimes they get a bit more detailed than that, but for a rough outline I mostly stick to the bare bones. And as for writing advice -- just find what works for you and do it! :)


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